Populism and Polarisation: A Threat to our Democracy?

Kasper Juul Willumsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis is concerned with answering the research question: how do Danish political youth actors understand and assess the role of populism, and in extension, the impact of polarizing tendencies on the political sphere? I have Chosen to do so by applying a deductive approach, using the theoretical frameworks “What is Populism” by Jan Werner Müller, and “The New Spirit of Capitalism” by Luc Boltanski and Chiapello, to base the project in and compare my findings with. Through a critical discourse analysis based on interviews with representatives from different youth parties across the Danish political spectrum, the question of what populism is and whether it is a threat to democracy has been examined closely. Among prominent findings, were discourses related to youth parties being perceived by the interviewees as more extreme and focussed on the younger audiences, as opposed to the elected political parties present in the Danish parliament. Discourses would to some extent the perspective Jan Werner Müller provided on populism, that it exhibits a threat to democracy, due to its illusive nature, paired with its presence being rooted in real frustrations felt by people neglected by politicians. Discussions arised on the basis of whether direct measures should be taken to combat populist tendencies and increased polarization, or whether trust should be instilled in the market and capitalist system, assuming the system could provide for itself, even during a rise of populist and polarising tendencies.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages156